Steven Mnuchin, commenting on Iranian sanctions and the administration's policy of "maximum pressure" with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum in Qatar said that such a policy has long proven to be effective.
“The reason why we’re using sanctions is that they are an important alternative for world military conflicts. And I believe it’s worked", the secretary said. “So whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s Iran or other places in the world, we take the responsibility very seriously".
While the dollar looks set to retain its preeminence in global markets, Mnuchin admitted that there has to be a balance in setting policies that administer international trade.
“People don’t have to use the dollar, we have the right to put restrictions on people using the dollar. And over a long period of time, if we’re not careful, people will look at using other currencies", he said.
The secretary added that the Trump administration has no plans of “weaponising” the dollar through its trade-restricting policies with other countries.
“Let me be clear: we are not weaponising the US dollar", Mnuchin said. “If anything I would say the opposite; I take great responsibility that people use the dollar as the reserve currency of the world, and the dollar is quite strong — sometimes the president says the dollar is too strong. The dollar is strong because of the US economy and because people want to hold dollars and the safety of the US dollar. So because of that, we take sanctions responsibility very seriously — as a matter of fact, I personally sign off on every single piece of sanction that we do".
The Trump administration has imposed sanctions, including on dollar trade with Iran, North Korea and others, as part of a strategy to pressure state actors to change their practices. According to the Treasury Department, there are 6,300 Specially Designated Nationals and more than 20 countries against which some type of US sanctions are in place.
Washington introduced a campaign of "maximum pressure" against the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2018, after unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
In addition to sanctions against Iranian individuals and companies, US restrictions were imposed on the country's energy and banking sectors, with a stated goal of bringing Iran's oil exports down "to zero". Iranian authorities have repeatedly slammed US policies as "economic terrorism".